Posts tagged “multitasking”


Sometimes a seemingly minor interaction has a big impact.

At Black China Cafe in Santa Cruz, a small rock keeps napkins in place at the coffee station. With a cup of coffee in one hand, getting a napkin means picking up the rock, putting it down somewhere, picking up a napkin, and then putting the rock back in place.

I had just been thinking as I walked to the cafe about how hard it’s become for me to do something simple like walk across a parking lot without simultaneously jumping on my phone and checking my email, Twitter feed, etc.

I like being able to get lots of things done while I’m mobile, but at times I do this even when I don’t need to, and it starts to feel like a compulsion to multitask. Coming out of that context, the focused attention and step-at-a-time-ness of this little rock/napkin moment at the cafe shifted my whole pace of being.

Interaction design has always talked about temporal elements like pacing and pause. In their book, Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction, authors Helen Sharp, Yvonne Rogers, and Jenny Preece present a case study in which software testing showed adding pauses to a particular interaction would benefit users, and discuss some of the engineers’ reaction to this finding:

To make these changes would require adding additional menus and building in pauses in the software. This conflicts with the way engineers write their code: they are extremely reluctant to purposely add additional levels to a menu structure and resist purposely slowing down a system with pauses.

Right now, human/device interactions commonly involve waiting impatiently for our things to do what we’ve asked them to, and faster processing is often a goal. But as technological capability increases and our devices become faster than we are, I wonder if it may become increasingly necessary to also think about purposely slowing down elements of an interaction to create a different user experience – a’la the napkin rock – that is more aligned with “human-speed.”

Station to Station

Today about 15 minutes apart I posted, “Digging in to a day of reading transcripts for one project and laying out findings for another” on Facebook and, “Wondering how many things I can do simultaneously before my head explodes” on my Twitter account.

Seems like a contradiction: one describes a deep dive and the other a multitasking frenzy. Yet both are true–each post represents a different way of looking at time and the meaning of “now.”

With all of the channels we have for letting each other know what we’re up to, there is a huge range of options for what to say where and to whom. And each channel and tool suggests different approaches.

There’s no doubt that these modes of communication are and will affect our ways of writing, starting and maintaining relationships…even our way of conceptualizing time.


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